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4:12 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Coast Guard Icebreaker Returns to Seattle After Trip To Antarctica

Following a 108-day trip to Antarctica, Seattle-built icebreaker Polar Star returned to its homeport at the U.S. Coast Guard base in Elliott Bay Friday.

The vessel, with its 75,000 horsepower, cut a path for a tanker and cargo ship to deliver supplies to a U.S. research station ahead of the coming Antarctic winter. 

"There's nothing else like it," said U.S. Coast Guard Commander Kenneth Boda, fresh off the boat, on what it feels like to crack through ice in the Polar Star. "It's very loud when you're breaking ice, especially down low in the waterline. A lot of people sleep down low and can hear the ice scraping the hull. And the ship moves very suddenly as well. The bow will ride up onto the ice and then push down through it." 

Maintained by Seattle’s Vigor Shipyards, the Polar Star is the most powerful non-nuclear icebreaker in the world.

A few years ago, the 38-year-old ship was on the verge of being scrapped, but $57 million of alterations made it seaworthy again. Now, it can smash through ice as thick as 25 feet.

The 140-person crew, who were at sea during the holidays and the Seahawks' Super Bowl victory, docked the gargantuan ship with a 12th Man flag waving in the wind.